How Much Money Should I Ask For in a Salary Negotiation?

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By Anish Majumdar, Career Strategist, Certified Resume Writer and Founder of ResumeOrbit.com.

“The best way to keep money in perspective is to have some.” -Louis Rukeyser

by Anish Majumdar, Career Strategist and Founder, ResumeOrbit.com. You’ve no doubt heard about the importance of not discussing what you made at a previous job with a prospective employer. That’s good advice. But let’s say you’ve done that and are now at the point of having to provide an expected compensation figure- how much should you ask for? Here’s a personal story that illuminates what I see as the biggest enemy to your efforts:

At age 26, I’d just moved to New York City from Montreal for a fresh start. After several years of working (mostly just surviving) as an actor, I was starting to realize that your ambitions and perspective are heavily influenced by what you’re used to. What I considered a “livable” salary was an amount that would be poverty-level in any city in the U.S., and downright laughable in NYC. This really came home for me one evening when I was out with my girlfriend (now wife) and started chatting about her friend, a VP at Goldman Sachs.

“Wow, I bet she brings in a pretty penny,” I said.

She nodded. “Yeah, she definitely makes a good living.”

I thought it over, then did the “glance over the shoulder” move everyone does when talking about what someone else makes, and said, “So how much are we talking about here…like fifty grand?”

Fifty thousand dollars. To be a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, one of the most prestigious investment banks in the world.

Is it any wonder that I later found out she had serious reservations about where my life was headed based on that answer? It’s not just that I was out of touch, or didn’t understand how Finance executives got paid. This spoke to my own expectations of what constituted fair pay.

In a salary negotiation, who you’re fighting against isn’t the person on the other end of the table. It’s yourself. Your self-imposed limitations, your damaged self-worth, and ultimately, your capacity to act courageously in an ambiguous and emotionally charged situation.

Why is it called compensation? Because a company needs to provide you with money and benefits that completely free you from worries within your personal life, thereby enabling you to devote your time and energy to fulfilling their goals. They are compensating you for your effort. A great job offer will do this. Anything less is not a great offer.

Here’s a simple formula you can use:

1) What is the least amount of money I would accept to take this position? Expert tip: if you need help establishing a baseline salary, visit Glassdoor.com and input the job title and region to get an at-a-glance view. Here’s what that looks like:

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2) What kind of offer would bring a smile to my face and make me excited to take this job?

3) How much money would make me jump up and down with glee, immediately call my family with the great news, and transform me into a passionate ambassador for the company? (Expert tip: this number must be somewhat reasonable, if the median salary is $200K don’t put $600K here).

Don’t take the job unless you can negotiate the offer to somewhere between #2 and #3. If an offer isn’t at least going to make you excited, let it go. And if it doesn’t come close to making you jump up and down with glee, the job probably won’t either.

You’re worth more than you think you are. Now go out there and fight for it!

Ask These Questions Before Accepting a Job Offer

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by Anish Majumdar, Executive Resume Writer, LinkedIn Writer, Career Branding Expert at ResumeOrbit.com. If a job search is like dating, then getting a job offer is the moment when you decide whether it’s time to get married. And just like that other major commitment, the more questions you ask, the less anxiety you’ll feel and the more certain you’ll be that it’s the right decision.

1 point to keep in mind: if it’s a great company, they will have answers to every single one of the questions listed below. If they don’t, then you need to decide whether it’s a deal-breaker to joining them or not. Either way, the power is in your hands!

On to the list:

1. What is included under your “benefits” package? Ex: health insurance coverage (provider options, how much employee pays in, do they cover prescriptions/speciality services, etc.)

2. When does health coverage begin for new employees?

3. Do you offer dental insurance? What is the plan?

4. Do you offer vision insurance?

5. Do you offer a discount on a gym membership?

6. What is the 401K offering (vesting, matching, can I roll over my current 401k into yours?)

7. Do you offer Life or Disability Insurance?

8. How much paid vacation do you offer per year? Is it accrued? Does it carry over if I don’t use it?

9. How many Sick and/or Personal days do I get?

10. What are the official company paid holidays? I have other religious holidays that fall outside of these, will you grant them?

11. Does the company provide a company-issued cell phone or reimburse for cell phone plans?

12. Does the company reimburse for mileage driven for work? or Do you offer pre-tax commuter cards?

13. What are the typical office hours? Is there flexibility to work from home on certain days?

14. Do I get overtime for going over 40 hours (applies to exempt vs non exempt status)?

15. Do you offer a stock/equity package? What are the details and the vesting period?

16. What is the pay period? Every week, every two weeks, etc.?

17. What is the bonus structure? Is it fixed based on personal goals or variable based on company performance?

18. What is your desired start date for me?

19. Will I be issued a corporate card or a petty cash fund?

And finally, one last question that you need to ask yourself: will this position advance my career in a meaningful way? If you know in your heart that the answer to this last question is “no”, then it’s going to be very hard to move forward. On the flip-side, if the answer is a resounding “Yes!” then it’s fine to go into the questions above in a spirit of compromise.

Wishing you health and happiness in your life and career!

3 Situations Where You Must Negotiate Salary

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Ever get a feeling that the job search process is one that’s custom-designed to chip away at your confidence? From sitting in waiting rooms with dozens of other candidates, to the grueling gauntlet of pre-interviews, interviews, tests, and negotiations, is it any wonder that the first emotion we feel upon receiving an offer is relief ? This is what underpins the findings of a recent study conducted by CareerBuilder, which found an astonishing 49% of U.S. working professionals never attempt to negotiate salary; we feel so lucky to have been offered a position that we’ll do anything not to jeopardize it.

If salary negotiation isn’t an expected part of your job search, you are willingly sacrificing both money and future prospects. In their paper, “Who Asks and Who Receives in Salary Negotiation” researchers Michelle Marks and Crystal Harold found that employees who negotiated their salary increased annual pay an average of $5K. Assuming a 5% average annual pay increase over 40 years, that’s an extra $634K in earnings over a lifetime versus a non-negotiator. Sure, negotiating can be awkward and fraught with tension, but is it really six hundred thousand dollars awkward?

Here are 3 situations where negotiating salary is a must:

1) You Have an Offer In Writing

Ask any salesman and they’ll tell you the deal’s not done until the money’s in hand. The same principle holds true for a job search. All the great conversations about compensation and benefits mean little until an employer is willing to put it down in writing. Once they do, however, you have leverage. You know that they want you, and at this point it would be easier for all parties involved to finalize. Carefully evaluate every aspect of the job offer, and if something’s really off, address it in a thoughtful counter-offer.

2) You Can Demonstrate Added Value

Value equals compensation. If you’re not happy with the salary being presented, it is imperative to make a case that centers around the value you’re bringing to the table. An effective resume can play a key role in this, as it can crystallize the unique qualities which set you apart, and serve as a blueprint for which aspects of your career to elaborate upon. Whatever you do, don’t try to negotiate on the basis of need. No employer cares why you need more money. What they need to know is what they’re getting for the additional investment.

3) You’re Seeing Potential Red Flags

If you’ve received an offer but have serious qualms about non-negotiable elements like the corporate culture, the career advancement track (or lack thereof), or your superiors, then you need to push for a better one. Big picture problems carry more risk, and more risk needs to be offset by more rewards. Americans now spend an average of 4.6 years at a job- take a stand for what you need to make those years happy and fulfilling ones!

Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Founder of ResumeOrbit.com, a consulting firm that specializes in Resume/CV Development, LinkedIn Profile Development and Executive Bio Letter Development for senior and mid-level professionals.